by Laurel Tuohy
The duo behind Backstage, Find the Photo Booth and Find the Locker Room are at it again. This time, longtime co-founders Ronnaporn ‘Neung’ Kanivichaporn and Chennarong ‘Jan’ Bhumichitr have paired with 100 Mahaseth’s Chef and Co-owner Chalee Kader to launch their first mixology meets gastronomy destination, Mahaniyom cocktail bar, a gorgeous, souk-like space above nose-to-tail (m)eatery 100 Mahaseth. The bar officially opens tomorrow.
The menu’s dozen signature drinks each bear the name of their star ingredient and boast a cumulative list of over 50 ingredients to create recipes with names like Rice, Orange and Banana (All signature cocktails are THB 390).
The space features atmospheric low lighting and a fluorescent, two-headed tiger light on the wall to match the same motif on the chinoiserie upholstery. Draped fabric from the ceiling makes the space both cozier and more exotic. Bhumichitr described the aesthetic as “Thai Rococo with a bit of disco.”
We started our drinking session with Pineapple, a refreshing, boozy and fruity drink without too much sweetness. Mixing gin, vermouth, pineapple tepache, pineapple and green pepper cordial, pineapple leaf and soda, the light and tangy taste belies the heady ingredients inside.
Next up was Pomelo, a balanced, thoughtfully created drink combining rum, lillet rose, housemade pomelo and jasmine cordial, pomelo juice, rice paddy herbs, and pomelo leaf tea. But it’s really the housemade dried chili tincture and pomelo cracker garnish that make this one shine.
The tincture is made of pomelo albedo (that’s the white, inner part of the peel), which is soaked in alcohol and treated with chili smoke. The subtle addition provides the most playful dash of spiciness that keeps the drinker asking, ‘Is this spicy or am I crazy?’
As for the garnish, it’s more the presentation than the bit of pomelo cracker itself that’s memorable. While most garnishes float on top of a drink or balance precariously on top, this one is presented differently, it’s ‘glued’ to the side of the glass with a bit of sweet syrup, another playful touch that offers a window into the minds of the ground-breaking F&B players behind Mahaniyom.
After warming us up with these two more traditional-tasting options, the Mahaniyom team brought out their big guns: Cow and Squid. Yup, cocktails made with ingredients like beef, butter, cheese, milk and squid ink because “we wanted to get real food flavors into drinks,” said Bhumichitr.
The Squid arrived first, a clear cocktail with a black-green inky layer on top. The bold drink – a heady mixture of vodka, mezcal, sake, mirin, dried squid slow-cooked in clear tomato juice and pickled ginger cordial – tastes boozy and fishy, but not in an unpleasant way. It’s more of a drink to savor than slam back and struck me as a fine drinking interpretation of snacking on Thai dried squid while drinking.
The Cow was delivered next, a rocks glass of semi-opaque amber liquid with a dollop of blue cheese foam balanced on a stick on top. Despite being an intimidating mix of wagyu fat, clarified milk, miso, red wine, brandy, brown butter, beef fat, Thai mulberry, black pepper, palm sugar and blue cheese air, this drink is almost shockingly drinkable. It’s slightly sweet with something savoury and earthy-fermented floating just beneath the top notes. The black peppercorn forms the final flavour, which stays with you as you finish the drink.
Kanivichaporn described it as “savory, salty, umami…it’s steak in a glass.”
We finished our Mahaniyom tasting session with ‘Coffee’, which Kanivichaporn served with the announcement that we should “forget all the coffee drinks we’ve had before” when we tasted it. The drink should also be quaffed quickly since it’s served with a warm layer and a cold layer that hits the palate “like a warm brownie with cold ice cream,” added Bhumichitr.
The drink appears like a hot cappuccino but the foam on top is actually made of guava and conceals a cocktail of gin, white port wine, coffee blossom, caskara (the skin of the coffee cherry before roasting), lemon juice and coffee from Left Hand Roasters. Slightly sour and a bit fruity, it tastes miles away from the sweet, strong and straightforward flavor of traditional coffee cocktails like espresso martinis.
The bar has a lineup of equally tasty and unusual food and snacks provided by Kader and the kitchen of 100 Mahaseth. The Papaya Fritters (THB 160) are long and crunchy with a slight taste of the fermented fish sauce they are prepared with. They appear in a red cardboard sleeve that mimics the iconic McDonald’s french fry packaging. The Marinated Clams (THB 250) are served in a sardine tin and pair well with the unusual cocktails. Pork Belly, moo ping, bone marrow, fish tartare and stuffed calamari also appear on the menu.
For fans of unique cocktails and a passionate staff that knows how to talk about them, Mahaniyom is certainly worth a visit.
Mahaniyom is located at 100 Mahaseth Rd., upstairs from 100 Mahaseth restaurant. The official launch is on March 1.
104 Si Phraya Rd, Khwaeng Si Phraya, Bang Rak, Bangkok 10500
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Author: Laurel Tuohy
Laurel Tuohy is a Bangkok-based writer. Her favorite stories focus on weird and wonderful travel, food, and lifestyle. Her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Vice, BBC, Travel + Leisure, South China Morning Post, The Culture Trip and more.